How to treat your PCOS naturally.
The first step to treating your PCOS holistically is to first understand the driving factors behind your PCOS and whether or not you have been correctly diagnosed. Click here to read our article ‘What is PCOS?’ and learn more about how it is diagnosed.
PCOS can be successfully managed naturally with a combination of dietary and lifestyle modifications, nutritional supplements and herbal medicine. We recommend seeing a naturopath to tailor a treatment plan to suit your specific needs, however, this article will shed light on the things you can do at home to get great results. Please keep in mind that every body is different and will respond to different treatments.
Naturopaths will always aim at treating the cause of disease rather than masking it. Naturopathic treatment aims for PCOS commonly include:
- Stabilize blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity
- Reduce weight (if required)
- Improve the stress response and support adrenal glands
- Reduce androgens and balance hormones
- Support liver function to regulate bowel movements (clear hormones through the stools) and to improve detoxification pathways.
Nailing your diet is the absolute key to achieving results when treating PCOS. There are no supplements or herbs that will outweigh a healthy diet.
When looking at a PCOS friendly diet, you want to be focusing on stabilising your blood sugar levels. This means that you want to avoid blood sugar spikes. To stabilise blood sugar levels you want a consistent and slow release of energy (glucose) into the blood stream throughout the day. This can be achieved by:
1) Following a low GI/GL diet.
High GI foods need to be avoided, for example: white bread, pasta, white potato, white rice, chips, soft drinks, cakes, soft drink, lollies, pastries, processed breakfast cereals. Limit any foods that contain refined sugars, or high amounts of natural sugar.
Low GI foods to eat in abundance are vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes (chickpeas, lentils), grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, pearled barley) and some fruits (pear, apple, grapefruit, plum, peach, cherries, tomatoes, orange)
2) Eating small, regular meals that contain protein, healthy fats and small amounts of carbohydrates. Fats and protein slow the release of glucose into your blood stream, this will keep your blood sugar levels stable. Examples of balanced snacks/meals include:
- Apple (carbohydrate) and almond butter (fat & protein)
- Salmon (protein & fat) with broccoli and sweet potato (carbohydrate)
- Stir fry with vegetables, tofu or chicken (protein), cashews (fats), and brown rice (carbohydrate).
- Quinoa (carbohydrate) salad with avocado (fat), and chickpeas (protein).
Other dietary suggestions include:
- Avoid dairy (especially if you have acne).
- Use apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) before meals to aid in digestion. 1 tablespoon in a small glass of warm water.
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables, as they assist with hormonal balance. They include broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and bok choy.
- Eliminate inflammatory foods such as:
- Refined sugars
- Coffee- upsets the nervous system, hormones and adrenal glands.
- Alcohol- the less you drink, the happier your hormones will be.
- Artificial sweeteners- impair insulin and leptin signalling.
- Include these foods into your diet:
- Cinnamon: assists with blood sugar regulation.
- Kelp or dulse flakes: your ovaries need iodine and seaweeds are a good source of it.
- Fermented foods: kim chi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. Establishing good gut bacteria and continuing to nourish it has a huge role in general health but also contributes to hormonal health. There are bacteria in your gut that contributes to oestrogen break down.
- Fibres/prebiotics: Prebiotics are food for good bacteria to help them flourish. Foods high in prebiotic fibre are: onions, garlic, leek, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Spearmint tea: 2 cups per day is shown to reduce testosterone levels.
One of the main goals in treating PCOS is to lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity. High insulin levels affect hormones by increasing androgen (testosterone) levels. If you can improve insulin sensitivity it will decrease the amount of insulin being produced which will therefore decrease the level of androgens.
The most successful way to do this is through exercise as it increases the cells sensitivity to insulin and therefore reduces the need for your body to keep up-regulating the production of insulin. Any form of exercise that you enjoy would be extremely beneficial to achieving results. Aim for 30 mins – 1 hour every day.
This may include:
- Bike riding
- Yoga or pilates
- Gym glasses (pump, spin, circuit etc)
Reducing stress is also essential if you want to stabilise your hormones. Cortisol (the stress hormone) is produced by your adrenal glands. It gives the energy you need to get out of bed in the morning and helps you deal with stressful situations. However when you are constantly ‘under-the-pump’ cortisol gets continually produced which leads to chronically elevated levels. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and blood sugar (what you are trying to lower!), and wreaks havoc on your hormones.
Effective methods to reduce stress and induce relaxation are:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Walking- any physical activity in general
- Yoga, Tai Chi
- Creative time: journaling, art, painting, gardening
- Nature time (bush walks, swimming in the ocean, walks on the beach)
Your Naturopath may suggest the supplementation of nutrients to assist your body with a variety of metabolic and hormonal functions. Supplements should be taken under the guidance of a health professional. Nutrients that might be useful include:
- Vitamin D: commonly deficient in PCOS patients.
- Zinc: reduces acne lesions, improves skin health, also improves hormonal balance.
- DIM or Indole-3-carbinol: an extract from cruciferous vegetables found to enhance oestrogen clearance.
- Chromium: for regulation of blood glucose levels.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: for regulation of blood glucose levels.
- Inositol: for regulation of blood glucose levels.
- Magnesium: improves insulin sensitivity
Herbal medicine can be incredibly effective in the treatment of PCOS. We suggest you consult with a naturopath for specific guidance when using herbal medicine.
We recommend Fem21 as an easily accessible natural formula for PCOS. Fem21 is a blend of 21 herbs, greens, fibres and probiotics that can help to regulate menstrual cycle, improve gut health and support hormonal balance. Women with PCOS may benefit from Fem21 to help induce ovulation and reduce symptoms. To shop now – click here